In 2016 Melbourne Storm were minor premiers with 19 wins and runners up in the Grand-Final. In 2017 Melbourne Strom were Minor Premiers with 20 wins and won the Grand Final. We don’t expect that record to look very different in 2018, despite the loss of halfback Cooper Cronk. One key to 2017 success was the return of Billy Slater. Every game that Bill played he seemingly scored a try (or two) and notched up a try assist. Billy Slater was of course MOM in the 2017 Grand final win, as we successfully tipped.
For us Billy Slaters injury run could very well make or break Storms 2018. Having a young replacement half back in a spine made up of Cameron smith, Cameron Munster and Billy Slater shouldn’t be a problem. Take another one of those big names out however, and it starts to look a lot weaker. We expect the storm to be as dominant as ever in 2018 and think $1.90 to make the top 4 is as easy money as you will ever win betting, but their ultimate success is largely dependent now on the “big 2”.
While Melbourne Storm have their “big 2”, we have a “big 3”of teams who we expect to be a class above the rest in 2018 and Melbourne Storm is one of them.
The Roosters have been a dominant force for well over five seasons now, with the exception of 2016 when Mitch Pearce was suspended for rooting a dog. While they have repeatedly finished in the top 2, the Roosters were looking less and less likely of cracking another Premiership under the guidance of Mitch Pearce. Step in Cooper Cronk.
Cooper Cronk and the highly talented James Tedesco are added to a team already containing a superstar backline and a highly skilled forward pack. One early season hiccup for the Roosters is the jaw injury and possible concussion of five-eighth Luke Keary. There are high expectations on the Roosters in 2018 and we have them well and truly in our Big 3. If you want to back them to win the premiership in 2018 then we suggest backing them at William Hill to take advantage of their premiership Market promotion.
Brisbane appear to have lossed much more than they have gained for the 2018 season. They have lost plenty of strength in their forward pack with Jair Arrow, Adam Blair and Herman Ese’ese all departing, and have possibly lost some direction on the field losing half-back Ben Hunt. The Broncos key signing for 2018, Jack Bird, is expected to be out for the first 6 weeks of the competition and its till unclear exactly what role he will play.
While its currently not a rosy picture for the Broncos, they still do have Wayne Bennet as coach and access to an abundance of talented juniors. Given these two facts, we won’t write the broncos off just yet. One other thing to keep in mind is that both the Broncos team and Wayne Bennet coached teams tend to start the season off stronger than they finish. Likely due to the heavy off-season Bennet puts them through.
Prodigal son Jarryd Hayne returns, while the Eels have lost rampaging Semi Raradra. The Eels have an extraordinary backline in 2018, with Hayne and Michael Jennings in the centres and Bevan French and Clint Gutherson competing for the fullback jersey. While they lacked some size in the forwards last season, Kane Evans (Roosters) is added to the pack and Brad Taikarangi will move from centre to second-row.
The Eels are a team we liked in 2017, and we profited off their late charge into the top 4. We think coach Brad Arthur is absolutely one of the best in the comp and think that once again the Eels are great value to make the top 4 in 2018.
Sharks lose NSW five-eight to the panthers in a straight swap for Matt Moylan. Josh Dugan is also added to the backline, adding pressure on fullback Valentine Holmes. The Sharks maintain a lot of potential in 2018, but we expect it to take some time for their new halves to gel and their backline combinations to take shape. We know what to expect from the Sharks forward pack, but if they are to have success in 2018, their hookers Jayden Brailey and James Segeyaro will have to play a leading role.
We will wait and see how things pan out for the Skarkies.
Manly lacked depth in their forward back last season so the signing of Joel Thompson is greatly needed in 2018. Their big loss has been Blake Green in the halves, who is yet to be replaced. Manly are looking like having early season injury problems for their strike centre Dylan Walker.
It’s hard to get excited about Manly’s 2018 prospects but saying that they did well to come 6th in 2017. The Trbojevic brothers are expected to have huge years and they are going to need to if Manly is to improve on last season.
The Panthers have seemingly had the most troubled 2018 off season of all the NRL clubs. Beginning with trading out their captain and local junior Matt Moylan, another local junior Bryce Cartwright was released to join the Titans in February 2018 and there have been talks of other stars signing elsewhere for 2019. Following this, a close to full strength Panthers were flogged by a second-string Bulldogs team in a trial match.
Panthers are a team we don’t expect to start the season strong. The positives for the Panthers are of course the young Nathan Cleary being joined by the more experienced James Maloney in the halves; and both will be playing behind what is a huge forward pack.
The Cowboys made the 2017 Grand Final without Johnathan Thurston or Matt Scott. Add these two players back and you have yourself a team highly favoured to go all the way in 2018. Another big boost is JT’s retirement from rep football, which should ensure he is fresher throughout the mid part of the season and help in winning those important Origin affected rounds.
We can’t fault the cowboys in 2018 and have them well and truly in our Big 3. They will be particularly hard to beat at home. If you like them to win the premiership then we suggest backing them at William Hill to take advantage of their premiership Market promotion.
St-George have been a team that have been thereabouts the top 8 for the past couple of seasons, but just missing out each time. We expect them to continue to be thereabouts in 2018.
Their strength is without a doubt their forward pack, which gains James Graham in 2018 but has lost both Russel Packer and Joel Thompson. Their other big signing is Ben Hunt, which this website has been a big critic of for some time. If the Dragons are to have success in 2018 it will be on the back of a real tough, grinding brand of football.
The Raiders were electric in 2016 but struggled to find that spark for much of last season. They possess much of the same talent, but exactly which team will turn up is an unknown. We think they could fly under the radar and surprise a few, but have a huge early setback having already lost hooker Josh Hodgson for the season.
The great news for Bulldogs fans in 2018 is that Des Hasler is gone, and now finally, hopefully their team can start scoring some points. The bad news is that James Graham is also gone. As is Josh Reynolds. As is the biggest player in the league, Sam Kasiano.
Just what the hell Des Hasler was trying to do for the past two seasons is a great unknown, but by all reports Bulldogs can go back to being a free flowing attacking team in 2018. Their Key signings, Kieran Foran to the halves and Aaron Woods to the front row should only help. We don’t know quite what to expect from the bulldogs in 2018 but look forward to seeing it unfold.
The Rabbitohs have had one of the quietist off seasons in terms of signings, bringing in no first-grade names with the exception of the Australian/Queensland back, Dane Gagai (Knights). South Sydney’s 2018 will be dependant upon Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds staying fit. While the Rabbitohs looked in need of some tough forwards in 2017, they will be relying on improved performances from George and Tom Burgess. The Burges twins start this season injury free and fitter than previous years, which will hopefully lower their error rate and increase the impact they have.
We expect the Rabbitohs to be a much more free flowing attacking unit in 2018, with the ability to score a lot of points. Keeping that going throughout the season will be largely dependant on a few key players however.
For years the Warriors started with high pre-season expectation, at times even being pre-season favourites, only to continue to disappoint season after season. In 2017 the warriors only won a single game in Australia. In 2018, the Warriors start with no fanfare or expectations and we think this will suit the Warriors nicely. The Warriors should be better directed around the park this year with Shaun Johnston being joined by Blake Green (Manly) in the halves. The Warriors also get some much-needed size and strength added to the forward pack with Adam Blair, Tohu harris and Agnatius Paasi all coming in. And by all reports Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are both ready for a big season.
The Warriors are a team that can lose to just about anyone, but on their day turn it on and beat just about anyone. We expect the high variance for the Warriors to continue in 2018 and think the $3.75 to make the 8 isn’t bad value if you want to be in for a wild ride.
Ivan Cleary’s bus is full of new recruits for 2018 and we are excited to see what impact they make. Josh Reynolds is a great addition, adding plenty of energy to the halves and is backed up by the return of Benji Marshall. The Tigers have added some decent forwards and some ex-factor to their back line, including Mahe Fonua who has starred for Hull in the English Super League. We aren’t tipping the Tigers to pick themselves up off the bottom three just yet, but think Ivan Cleary is the right man to get the most out of this team.
The past 12 months has been one of unprecedented player movements and major signings. The Titans haven’t benefited from this like other teams, but instead lost Jarryd Hayne in the off season. The addition of Michael Gordon will be great for the Titans backline and we are excited to watch the development of Ash Taylor. Its hard to put the Titans anywhere but the bottom three right now.
The knights have been busy in the off season landing start recruit Mitch Pearce, to go along with rising star Kalyn Ponga and a hand full other experienced recruits. The Knights are widely expected to pick themselves off the bottom of the ladder this year, though making the top 8 is still a challenging task. We expect the Knights to be a top team at home this year, encouraged by an energized crowd, but will likely continue to struggle away from home.